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    Understanding Heart Attack: Diagnosis and Treatment

    How Is a Heart Attack Diagnosed?

    If your doctor suspects you are having a heart attack, he or she will promptly run tests, which may include:

    ECG or EKG. The electrocardiogram is a simple test that records the electrical activity of the heart. The test can often accurately detect heart irregularities and help pinpoint the area of the heart attack. It could determine if someone is having a heart attack based on changes on the ekg, which show muscle damage or lack of blood flow through the arteries.

    Understanding Heart Attacks

    Find out more about heart attacks:

    Basics

    Symptoms

    Diagnosis and Treatment

    Prevention

    Blood tests. Several blood tests, often taken every 4 to 8 hours, can help diagnose a heart attack and detect any ongoing heart damage. 

    Often, treatment for heart attack is started at this time. The doctor may recommend a test to pinpoint the location of the blocked artery -- and if it is possible, perhaps unblock it. These procedures may include:

    Cardiac catheterization. In this procedure, a catheter (thin, hollow tube) is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin or wrist and threaded up to the heart. Dye is used to highlight the heart's arteries. Blockages can be identified and often treated with angioplasty or stents to open the artery and restore blood flow.  Several tests may be performed to assess the heart. Intravenous blood thinner is an option to open the artery, if cardiac catheterization is not available. 

    Echocardiogram. In this ultrasound test, sound waves are bounced off the heart to create images. This test can identify significant damage to the heart muscle from the heart attack and identify the presence of heart failure. It can also determine is there is any damage to the heart valves.

    Stress testing . Either a treadmill test or a radionuclide scan can assess whether other areas of the heart are still at risk for another heart attack.

    What Are the Treatments for Heart Attack?

    Emergency Medical Care for a Heart Attack

    A heart attack is a medical emergency that requires immediate care to prevent permanent heart damage or death. CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) should be started if the victim goes into cardiac arrest, when the heartbeat has stopped and the person is unresponsive. CPR doesn't restart the heart; it just keeps the victim alive until medical help arrives.

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